Linden UMC opening school for underserved community

Date Posted: 9/9/2021


By Lindsay Peyton
 
Members of Linden UMC are preparing to open the doors to a new day care facility this fall. “Now summer is over, and we’re ready,” Dr. Kelly Krone said. “We’ve got boxes to unpack and furniture to put together. It’s all starting to take shape.”
 
Krone was appointed to the church about a year ago. At that time, conversations about housing a day care had begun but soon stalled. The chief concern members had was space.
 
“At that time, they didn’t think it was something they could do,” Krone said. “They just didn’t think it would work. We’re a smaller congregation, but every single room in our church is being used.”
 
Then, the Rev. Jill Daniel, Director of We Love All God’s Children, came to visit. “She grew up in the area, and she understands the people and what they need,” Krone explained.
 
The We Love All God's Children initiative empowers churches to help under-served youth with daycare and reading resources. Daniel explained that there were no day cares in Linden, Texas.
 
“She talked to us about how we are in a day care desert,” Krone recalled. “We saw her passion. We figured that there were other ways we could do it, if we could find a space and didn’t have to use our building.”
 
A year ago, the Linden-Kildare Consolidated Independent School District opened a center in its former head start building on the elementary campus. Children ages 3 and 4 were invited to attend, but toddlers and infants still needed care, Krone explained.
 
“We started looking at buildings we could rent or buy,” he said. “But then the building we were considering fell through.”
 
About a week passed, and the pastor received a call from the school superintendent. The school district was planning to move the 3- and 4-year olds into their preschool. The building they had used was now available.
 
“They asked us if we were interested in taking over their daycare space,” Krone said.


 
Linden UMC signed a lease in late June and a month later, hired Tanetra Blaylock as Director of the new Methodist Children’s Center. Church members repainted the walls and stripped the floors. “It’s a labor of love,” Krone said. “And it’s been a good way for us to connect for a common cause.”
 
He added that members are eager to open the center and begin serving youth in the community. “It’s a reminder that the church is still alive,” Krone said. “It’s a reminder that church is not about stepping through our doors on a Sunday morning. It’s about investing in our community, making it a better place to live, work and grow.”
 
The center will serve infants through age 4. Already, almost 30 children have signed up. “We have babies on the waiting list that aren’t even born yet, and that’s a cool thing,” Krone said.  
 
He hopes to expand to serve more families in the future. “We have the capacity to go larger,” he said. “Once it gets started and word gets around, it will be easy to continue.”


 
He added that Rev. Daniel has worked to build a curriculum for children’s centers in the Texas Annual Conference that prepares young minds for higher achievement at school. “We can start that process now – and help kids become more successful in the future,” Krone said.
 
He explained that the Conference provides training and teaching materials approved by the state, ensuring that children are prepared for their grade level. “It’s a win-win for the kids, the school, our community and the church,” he said.
 
Krone said that the church will have the opportunity to instill Christian values in young minds at the day care. He knows firsthand the power of early education through the church, fondly recalling fondly his own kindergarten experience at a Lutheran school.  “That was my first real encounter with God,” he said.
 
Making a commitment to getting children off to the best start possible is critical, Krone added. “It’s a matter of investing time in a child’s life to make it better,” he said. “We want to do anything we can help children know that there’s a God who loves them and there are people who care. And they will see that right when they step through our doors.”